Reducing flaring

Daryl Dukart, Dunn Center

In North Dakota, our energy fields produce far more value in oil than natural gas in fact, almost 20 times more. However, natural gas production is important from an economic and resource perspective, and we need to be committed to reducing the amount of gas flared in North Dakota.

To discuss the issue, we should understand a few basic facts that cause flaring:

– The Bakken has a limited existing infrastructure of pipelines (gathering lines) and a limited workforce to install them.

– A rough climate offers a short construction season each year to install gathering lines.

– Our state lacks enough pipelines and gas plants needed to send gas to distant markets.

– Installing pipelines requires landowner consent. Landowner participation relies on a number of factors including construction timeline, contract terms, and even personal relationships with each particular company. Easement issues are among the largest causes of flaring.

Despite these challenges, it is important to us as stewards of the land not to waste a limited resource and I’m pleased to see the industry make headway in answering these challenges.

The plan recently released to reduce flaring in the Bakken by North Dakota’s oil industry promises to capture 85 percent of all gas within two years and 90 percent within six years. It is a great start to a difficult challenge and the industry produced a path forward that is both reaching and attainable in its goals and methods. In it, the industry has imposed new regulations on themselves that require a gas capture plan before a well is drilled, proposed modest right-of-way law changes for the legislature, and announced heavy investment into pipeline and processing infrastructure.

We want to see this precious resource utilized for the benefit of society and for the payment of royalties to our local owners. At the same time, as landowners, we must protect the rights we hold to manage our land and our ability to raise crops and livestock.

The leaders of North Dakota’s energy industry have done a good job of developing a plan that respects all these interests.